Russian GP: Hamilton shines in qualifying as the Brit secures another pole position, despite a late challenge from Valtteri Bottas

The first ever pole position in a Formula One Russian Grand Prix goes to Lewis Hamilton, after the Brit lapped the Sochi Autodrom two tenths of a second faster than his championship rival in Q3. Despite it looking like Valtteri Bottas would snatch pole at the death.

Lewis Hamilton had held the advantage on the soft compound tyres across the weekend after topping FP2 and FP3 on the option tyres. However in the final practice session, Rosberg was able to reduce the gap between the two Mercedes drivers.

Going into qualifying there were four drivers who needed a strong session more than others with Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Chilton all receiving a five-place penalty for a gearbox change. Whilst Maldonado carried a five-place grid penalty for his engine change back in Japan,

But come the green light for Q1, Romain Grosjean took to the track before anyone else. Although drivers soon began darting out of the pit lane to join the Frenchman out on track. With even the Mercedes hitting the track on the option tyres from the start. And having the option tyres on from the start gave Mercedes the instant edge over the field as they secured the top spots early on.

Rosberg took the early lead over Hamilton by around eight-tenths of a second. Considering how well Hamilton had been performing on the soft tyres, Rosberg holding such a large margin early on was a surprise. Although Lewis would later move into P1 as the benchmark lowered.

As always in Q1, the battle for the drop involved the two Caterham’s and the Marussia of Max Chilton but the other driver to drop out was still up for contention. Oddly, that battle was between the two Lotus’ and Felipe Massa. The most odd thing about Massa being involved in the fight is that his team-mate’s lap times were close to the top order rather than the bottom. However, Felipe himself was reporting over team radio that his engine was not working properly and provides a likely cause to his poor qualifying.

Come the chequered flag to mark the end of Q1, Massa was still unable to improve enough to get out of the drop zone and handed Grosjean a Q2 appearance whilst Maldonado could only manage P20.

Moving into Q2, Sergio Perez lead the field away from the pits. As the first man out of the pits, Sergio also posted the first time of the session with a 1:40:163. A time that would hold the Mexican in the top 10 until the late stages of the session.

Yet despite the time keeping Perez in the top 10, it was comfortably beaten by the Mercedes and the Mercedes powered McLaren’s, as Hamilton, Button and Magnussen moved into the top 3 early on.

As the Q2 benchmark fell more and more via Bottas, Hamilton and Rosberg, the strugglers of the session began to emerge. This time it those strugglers involved Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso as both lingered down in the drop zone.

Vettel had left it rather late before he posted his first timed lap of Q2. Usually this would have been a fine and normal strategy call but come the end of the lap he was only able to take P14 as the clocked ticked down.

Now with hardly any time remaining in the session, Fernando Alonso found his way out of the drop zone and into P8. The lap was far from flying but at least he found his way into the top 10 shoot-out. Unlike Sebastian Vettel who could only move up to 11th place at the chequered flag.

Vettel was joined in the Q2 drop zone by Hulkenberg, Perez, Gutierrez, Sutil and Grosjean. Leaving Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas, Magnussen, Kyvat, Button, Ricciardo, Alonso, Raikkonen and Vergne to contend Q3. A Q3 started with Bottas and Raikkonen hitting the track.

Soon enough all 10 cars were circulating the Sochi Autodrom, but the remaining Williams was first to begin a timed lap. Although his banker lap was extremely slow.

Luckily in a way for Bottas, his 1:46:399 was not the worse banker lap set as Button, Alonso and Magnussen all lapped the Sochi Autodrom slower in the early stages. However all improved on their next laps.

The real early leader when the times tumbled down was Nico Rosberg. The German moved into the top spot by over a second on Daniel Ricciardo before the Mercedes powered Williams and McLaren joined Rosberg to occupy the top 3.

As the drivers entered the final four minutes, Hamilton entered ‘Hammer time’ mode and instantly took P1. Lewis moved into the top spot three tenths up on Rosberg after going purple in the first sector and carrying the speed throughout the remainder of the lap.

As the clock began to approach 0, Bottas and Hamilton continued to push. This time Hamilton was setting the time sheet purple in the middle sector whilst Bottas went purple in sector one.

At the end of their laps, Hamilton managed to improve on his provisional pole lap and push himself further away from Rosberg and Bottas. But the chequered flag was yet to fall, leaving them all with one more chance at pole position.

Over that final lap Bottas ensured Hamilton would not take pole without a fight and went purple throughout the first two sectors. Entering the final corners it looked like Valtteri would move in front of Lewis but on the exit of the final corner, it all went wrong. The Finn ran wide and began to lose control, forcing him to back out of the lap and settle for third place.

Rosberg was unable to challenge his championship rival for pole position, meaning Lewis Hamilton will start the first ever Formula One Russian Grand Prix from pole position. Bottas is joined on the second row by Hamilton’s ex-McLaren team-mate Jenson Button and Daniil Kyvat starts from fifth place.

Kvyat’s fifth place is his best qualifying position of the season, and it comes at his home race. But not only that, he out-qualified both Red Bulls and starts six places higher than the man he will soon replace at Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel.

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:38.759 1:38.338 1:38.513 18
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:39.076 1:38.606 1:38.713 18
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:39.125 1:38.971 1:38.920 23
4 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.560 1:39.381 1:39.121 22
5 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:40.074 1:39.296 1:39.277 27
6 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:39.735 1:39.022 1:39.629 21
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:40.519 1:39.666 1:39.635 21
8 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:40.255 1:39.786 1:39.709 25
9 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:40.098 1:39.838 1:39.771 26
10 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:40.354 1:39.929 1:40.020 27
11 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:40.382 1:40.052 13
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:40.273 1:40.058 16
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:40.723 1:40.163 13
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:41.159 1:40.536 18
15 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:40.766 1:40.984 18
16 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:42.526 1:41.397 18
17 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:42.648 9
18 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:43.064 8
19 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:43.166 9
20 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:43.205 5
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:43.649 10
Q1 107% Time 1:45.672